The Diplomat: At What Cost Stealth?


Categorie: Air, Asia, China, David Axe, The Diplomat |
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J-20. Via Chinese Internet.


It has been more than a month since the Chengdu J-20, China’s first stealth fighter prototype, made its debut in grainy Internet photos. The 70-foot-long J-20 flew for the first time earlier this month, and has now apparently embarked on what could be an at least eight-year test program to prepare it for mass production.

All over the world, governments are reacting. The Pentagon urged calm, stressing the continuing long lead U.S. aerospace has over any competitor. But Vice Adm. Jack Dorsett, head of U.S. Navy intelligence, admitted Washington has at times ‘under-estimated’ the speed and effectiveness of Chinese military developments. Taiwan, in an apparent panic, arranged a public test of its air defences and reeled as decrepit missiles malfunctioned and plunged into the sea. Meanwhile, India heralded the operational debut of its first (non-stealthy) home-grown fighter and plowed ahead on developing a stealthy follow-on.

For all that, no one knows for sure how advanced the J-20 truly is, or what Beijing intends to use it for. Observers all over the world have pored over available photos and videos hoping to glean insights into the fighter’s design. One Australian think tank even imagined a future Taiwan war scenario entirely built around a massive force of J-20s sweeping the skies clear of American warplanes.

But there’s one key question no one has really asked. Indeed, it might be the single most important question of all — how much does the J-20 cost? No one knows for sure. Analyst Andrew Erickson has guessed $110 million per plane. That compares favourably with the cost of US stealth fighters. Not counting development, a single F-22 costs around $130 million. Again not counting development, the newer F-35 is itself around $100 million per copy.

Read the rest at The Diplomat.


4 Responses to “The Diplomat: At What Cost Stealth?”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Axe, Aman Chauhan. Aman Chauhan said: The Diplomat: At What Cost Stealth? [...]

  2. Mat says:

    Erickson frist estimate of J20 cost seems quite over the top 110mio vs F22 130mio and F35 100mio

    Any and all labour in chine is way cheaper than in US so to get to same cost as US planes J20 would need to be considerably more complex than F22 or F35 which is probably not the case ,same goes for components engines russian or chinese are much cheaper as are radars .
    So its quite a stretch of imagination to baloon the price of J20 to US levels ,only posible by more complex design and at the same time bashing it that its hardly as an advanced design.

  3. WarLord says:

    The Chinese built a plane that was obsolete as it rolled out of the hanger. Might as well build a steam powered dirigible. The future of warfare in asymetrical and open source. A China that felt compelled to block reference to “Egypt” has little need for stealth. But I’m sure the US aviation industry was thrilled at possible “arms race”

  4. altor says:

    “the marginal cost of buying one additional [F-22] aircraft has come down to (just!) $138 million, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated that a larger order of 70 additional aircraft could have brought that number down to $70 million a pop.”

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